Lost in Any Language, Part 2: See Rome and Die (of Embarrassment)

All I wanted was to see the Colosseum. 

It was June of 2009, and I was in Italy primarily because I'd had a stressful school year and toward the end of May, I knew something drastic had to be done before I completely lost my will to live. So late one evening I came home from work, plopped in front of the laptop, googled "cheap airfare," and snapped up the first result. Knowing that I had a round-trip ticket to Europe in the offing helped me tunnel through the final weeks of the semester.

Which is how I wound up in Rome.

When I told my friend Lucy what I'd done, she decided to join me--thank God. Because clearly I was in no frame of mind to waltz around the world making independent decisions.

Although I hadn't given this trip the sort of care and preparation I usually invest in overseas travel (generally there are charts, graphs, lists, timetables, and post-its), I still devised a loose plan for each day.

As did Lucy.

On this particular day, my plan was to see the Colosseum, while Lucy's plans involved taking photos with "Fabio," a third-rate Gladiator impersonator she'd spied the day before.

Once she had him in her sights, there was no turning back.

"He looks like a creep," I told her, but Lucy disagreed. She thought he was hilarious, and she gladly tipped him a couple of Euros to pose for some photos. He picked her up in his arms, nibbled her cheek, and soaked in her adulation. 

Safely on the far side of the lens, I found the whole thing a little silly; however, given my track record in the areas of ridiculousness and public embarrassment, I was really in no position to judge.

Then he came after me.

Hair fluttering in the warm Italian sun, he strode over the cobbles, plucked the camera from my hands, passed it to Lucy, and wrist-dragged me across the street. Flapping my free hand and gobbling like a turkey, I found myself snapped into position and tugged forward.

He leaned close.

Only then did he sense how uncomfortable I was--not that it phased him.

He leaned closer.

"Don' worry," he murmured, "I no kees you!"

Across the street, cackling away, Lucy snapped photos.

Fabio eventually dropped his arms, stepped back, and studied me for a minute.

"Ah," he said. "This."

I'm sure he thought there was something wrong with me: this awkward, sleep-deprived female sporting the sallow skin and hollowed-out eye pits that only the tail end of a school year can produce.

I can't say I'd blame him for worrying. I mean, look at me. I'd obviously let myself get into quite a state.

Fortunately, there's no balm quite like ten days in Italy with Lucy. I flew home happy, tanned, well-fed, and well-rested.

Best of all, I was ready to regale everyone with a string of mild disasters and embarrassing encounters experienced along the way.

Because this was just the first of many.

* * * *


  1. WOW!!!! What a story! I laughed aloud as I read. What a FABULOUS story to tell upon returning to the modern world. That reminds me of the time in Wales when a guy approached me and asked if I would help him put on lipstick. (It was a bachelor party and apparently, in Wales, it is common for the groom-to-be to dress as a woman). OK, whatever.

    Anyway, GREAT story, Ruth! And the fact that your friend got a frame-by-frame account of this is even better. I look forward to hearing more of these.

  2. That's great! I clicked on your link to the other post about your time in China with Lucy and found myself grinning like an idiot. In college I spent a summer teaching English in China with a team, including my best friend Elizabeth. I can just imagine the trouble you and Lucy got in, we got into our fair share of silly situations as well! Thanks, Megan, for sharing Ruth's blog. Now I must follow because Ruth, you remind me of myself :-)

    1. Josie, you will not be sorry. Many of Ruth's adventures remind me of my own too. Kindred spirits unite!


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